SARATOGA SPRINGS: City weighs capital projects

Discussion of the city's upcoming capital projects at the Tuesday, Aug. 21, Saratoga Springs City Council meeting turned into a debate on the cost and necessity of a new public safety building to house police and court staff.

A public hearing on the city's capital program budget was held before the meeting. The budget calls for $25.8 million for improvements in the 2008 budget, $17.7 million in 2009 and $19.9 million in 2010 before dropping down to $2.4 million in 2011.

During the public hearing, city residents questioned why the entire $17 million for the public safety building was in next year's budget proposal when the city hasn't even decided on a site.

There's no way we're going to spend all $17 million next year, said resident Charlie Morrison.

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck said he believed the only way the city could afford the public safety building was if the council again raised the bonding limit. Last year, the city raised its bonding limit from 1 to 2 percent of the five-year average assessed value of real property in the city. That new bonding limit equates to about $49.81 million. The city currently has nearly $24 million in outstanding debt, so the city would have to use most of its remaining available bonding for the $25.8 million 2008 capital program.

Franck said the city would probably have to increase its bonding limit to 4 percent.

"It can't be done any other way," he said. "This is Monopoly money. We can't afford to do this. We are mortgaging our children's future."

Mayor Valerie Keehn made her thoughts on the subject known through a written statement issued the day before the meeting.

"Just as we must invest to secure a sound and prosperous future for our families, we must invest to secure a sound and prosperous future for our community," she said. "No caring community or responsible government can continue to ignore the conditions in which our police, emergency service dispatchers and civilian safety employees labor. The environment is unsafe, unhealthy and unsanitary. Nor can we continue to ignore the real problems which inadequate space for even essential police functions, crime victim interviews, evidence handling and storage present. Not to act now will only delay " and make more costly " the inevitable."

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